Tiger, Jesse James: Why do cheaters marry?

They could have saved a lot of grief by skipping the nuptials, but in America, marriage still has a powerful pull

Topics: Jesse James, Coupling, Sex, Tiger Woods,

Tiger, Jesse James: Why do cheaters marry?Jesse James in 2009.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Jesse James-Sandra Bullock scandal, and as the fourth alleged mistress comes forward today, many (including me) have tried to answer the question, “Why do men cheat?”

But perhaps the better, and more interesting, question is: Why do cheaters marry? Consider how many star athletes and celebrity bad boys sleep around on their wives; now consider the scandal and professional fallout that breaks loose upon discovery. Wouldn’t it be easier for a man not to get married, at least until he decided his carrot was sufficiently wet? Why put yourself through the strain of a potentially messy extramarital affair? Don’t we live in a brave new world where we don’t judge others for choosing not to worship at the altar of familial bliss? Wasn’t it our grandparents’ generation who naively worried about the status of being “an older bachelor”? Look at George Clooney. That guy will never have a sex scandal.

Too bad more guys can’t be more like former Phillie and New York Times Op-Ed columnist Doug Glanville, who recently wrote a beautiful piece about the hardships of maintaining relationships as a pro ballplayer. Glanville realized early in his career that the physical separation combined with the romantic opportunities afforded a professional athlete were not solid ground for a marriage. So he waited until his professional career came to an end (stupid Yankees) before he considered settling down.

Sadly, most men are not as awesome as Doug Glanville. They are not as thoughtful as Doug Glanville, or introspective, or articulate, and they certainly do not have as many stolen bases.

No, instead, many men rush to the altar. Tiger made promises to Elin he probably knew he couldn’t keep. Jesse James did the same thing. Not once. Three times. So why?

For this, as in all things, we turn to Alec Baldwin. Here’s his advice to Matt Damon’s character in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”:

“Marriage is an important part of getting ahead. Lets people know you’re not a homo. Married guy seems more stable. People see the ring, they think at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch. Ladies see the ring, they know immediately you must have some cash or your cock must work.”



Of course, marriage didn’t work out so well for Alec Baldwin, either. But he sure has a point.

For many men, marriage is not a privilege or a choice but a perceived expectation, an expectation that a lot of guys are not strong enough to reject even if it’s wrong for them. There’s pressure from their families, their friends, their communities to tie the knot. In the case of Tiger Woods, an international brand, there is pressure from the profession, since the appearance of domestic stability, hetero-normalcy and reproductive capability is demanded in our commercial leaders as well as our civic ones.

And let’s not underestimate the power of the first part of Baldwin’s soliloquy, which certainly has a tug on any man living a public life — the politicians, matinee idols and athletes. But these aren’t merely the exotic concerns of the rich and famous. What guy isn’t pressured to be perceived as a stable heterosexual? That’s certainly the image I’m shooting for.

There was a time when a cheater in popular culture was seen as a half man, a wounded and lost human to be pitied like the alcoholic or gambler. In Edwin O’Connor’s 1956 novel about a mayoral campaign, “The Last Hurrah,” he writes that his hero, an aging Irish political boss, “took a poor view of infidelity. Like most of his people, he did not regard it as one of the genial sins.” So great was the sense of failure surrounding infidelity, Spencer Tracy reportedly went to his grave unable to forgive himself after falling madly in love with Katharine Hepburn while he was still married, and Eddie Fisher’s exploits didn’t just cost him a few sponsors, it ended his career. These days, there is no television character more romanticized than “Mad Men’s” Don Draper — he of the double life, split between the security of his home life and the excitement of other women’s beds. From Tony Soprano to Denis Leary in “Rescue Me,” the antihero serial cheater has become the benchmark of masculinity. Their infidelity is proof of their complex natures, their fundamental dilemmas. In fact, the weak and ineffectual “half-men” of today’s dramas are more like the faithful husbands, who, like “The Sopranos”‘ Artie Bucco, are whipped and emasculated by the women they refuse to betray.

I often wonder if our view of marriage hasn’t changed as much as we like to think it has in the last few generations. Maybe we haven’t let go of our grandparents’ prejudices about what makes normal and stable men, even in spite of all our hand-wringing over the actions of Jesse James and Tiger Woods. Maybe we are more accepting of the man who cheats than the man who simply says, “no thanks.” 

Aaron Traister is a proud graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia. He writes a monthly column for Redbook. He would like to say “happy eighth anniversary” to his wife.

 

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>